Monday, December 20, 2010

Princess Albert and the question of precedence

December 20, 1900

The warm welcome that "poor little Princess Albert of Belgium" received when she arrived in Brussels as a bride three months ago has apparently dissipated, according to the Marquise de Fontentoy's dispatch.   At the first, the former Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria was adored by King Leopold and Queen Marie Henriette.  But "ere long there arose the trouble-some question of precedence," and, now a "full-fledged quarrel" had broke out between the King and Queen and their daughter, Princess Clementine, on one side, and on the other, Prince Albert and his parents, the Count and Countess of Flanders.

The Countess, who is married to King Leopold's only brother and first in line to the throne, ranks immediately after the Queen, but before Princess Clementine.   The Count and Countess and Prince Albert are insisting that Princess Albert "should follow immediately after the Countess of Flanders, and before Princess Clementine."

Although nothing official has been published, it is understood that Prince Albert will succeed his uncle, King Leopold, as the Count of Flanders "has decided to waive his own rights of succession owing to his many infirmities."  The Count is "stone deaf."
The King and Queen argue that Princess Clementine should "retain her place next to the Countess of Flanders, and that Princess Albert  should follow her"  as Clementine is the daughter of the reigning sovereign.  Princess Albert is the wife of the King's nephew, and, therefore, not as closely related to the King as Princess Clementine.

This has led to two "hostile camps" within the Belgian royal house.  It is now doubtful as to whether Princess Albert, the Countess of Flanders and her two daughters, Princess Karl of Hohenzollern and the Duchess of Vendome, will attend King Leopold's annual New Year's reception at the royal palace.
The situation is similar to what Queen Victoria had to face after the marriage of her second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, to Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, daughter of Alexander II.

The new Duchess of Edinburgh was furious that she -- the daughter of a Tsar -- would have to cede precedence to Victoria's daughters, Helena, married to a Prince of Schleswig-Holstein, and Louise, the wife of the heir to the Duke of Argyll. 

Victoria disagreed.  She declared that "save in the case of the Princess of Wales, the daughters-in-law of the sovereign must give way to the daughters, no matter whom the matter may have married."

Marie was furious.  She believed she should have ranked even ahead of the Princess of Wales.  It was only after her husband succeeded as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, did Marie, as the wife of a reigning sovereign, rank head of the Princess of Wales, the wife of the heir to the British throne.

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